75 years ago today, on 10 May 1940, German forces began co-ordinated attacks on The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg and France. Allied strategy was in the hands of the French High Command, itself divided as to how to best counter a German attack. The Netherlands were overrun by 17 May, Belgium surrendered on 28 May and France signed its armistice on 22 June. British Air Forces in France were commanded by Air Marshal ‘Ugly’ Barratt and comprised 2 elements: the Air Component of the British Expeditionary Force and the Advanced Air Striking Force. The many acts of bravery in the air by fighter and bomber crews during the Battle are well-documented as are the devastating losses suffered by the RAF’s Fairey Battle Squadrons and the impressive tally of Luftwaffe aircraft destroyed by the RAF Hurricane squadrons based in France. What is perhaps less well known is the contribution of unarmed communication aeroplanes and their crews during this period.
Continuing our recent theme of unique aviation exhibits in ‘off the beaten track’ locations, this month’s contribution is the Italian Air Force Museum, which nestles in a spectacular location at Vigna di Valle on the edge of Lake Bracciano, a few miles North of Rome. The location itself is most historic, as Vigna di Valle was opened as the first Italian Experimental Aviation Yard in 1904, and was in use as a military flying boat base until the 1960s.
Another slightly 'off the beaten track' event at The Hungarian National Museum until 15 February is 'A Front Felett', which translates as 'Above The Front'. This is an exhibition of photographs recording the activities of Flik 13 (13 Squadron) of the Austro-Hungarian Air Service during the First World War. This pilot's aircraft recognition skills aren't quite up to providing captions, but the subject matter is certainly unusual...
Unusual view from the air today coming into Khartoum. This is the aeroplane graveyard.
A little off the beaten track, perhaps, but Zagreb's Technical Museum contains a couple of unique aeronautical gems. The Museum is currently undergoing some structural work, so the aviation exhibits are partially obscured by scaffolding and plastic sheeting, but it was still a rare treat to see the prototype Aero - 3 trainer, dating from 1953 and powered by a 6-cylinger Lycoming engine.
Our research into the history of Percival Q6 was just one of the reasons for a visit to East Kent last July. G-AFFD was based at Lympne by Sir Philip Sassoon; we believe that it was flown by RAF fighter pilots stationed at nearby RAF Hawkinge with II(AC) and 25(F) Squadrons. East Kent is perilously close to what was Nazi-occupied Northern France during the Battle of Britain and retains much of interest to those wishing to learn about the Battle.